In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The Minnesota Democrats have announced that they're filing an FEC complaint against Norm Coleman, arguing that he may have broken the law by using campaign funds for personal legal expenses in the Nasser Kazeminy case -- a lawsuit in Texas that charges, among other things, that a Coleman donor conspired to funnel payments to Coleman via his wife.

"Five months ago, former Senator Norm Coleman told us that he was seeking an opinion from the Federal Election Commission to ensure that he was following the law," DFL Party chairman Brian Melendez says in the release. "Now it appears that he never sought such an opinion and, more to the point, that he was and is breaking the law by diverting campaign money for personal use."

Usually, a political party's FEC complaint against a rival politician ends up going nowhere fast. On the other hand, this is just one more thing for Norm Coleman to worry about right now.

The Senate passed an amendment to an anti-fraud bill yesterday that would create an independent outside commission, complete with subpoena power, to investigate the causes of the crisis on Wall Street. The amendment was written by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), but was cosponsored by, among others, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)

"Through dozens of hearings at the Banking Committee, we have documented a web of negligence, regulatory failures, and other abuses that caused this crisis in our financial system, and in the broader economy," Dodd said upon passage of the measure. "It will be the responsibility of this independent commission to build upon these findings, investigating every level of regulatory failure, and sniffing out any illegal or abusive activity within the financial services industry."

The vote was an overwhelming 92-4, which isn't surprising given obvious political problems with voting against an investigation of Wall Street at this particular time. The dissenters were Sens. Jim Bunning (R-KY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Kyl (R-AZ), and John McCain (R-AZ).

McCain, however, is an interesting case.

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A new Gallup poll finds that a majority of Americans favor ending the Cuba embargo -- and in fact, this isn't a new opinion.

The numbers: 51% favor ending the embargo, to only 36% against it, with a ±3% margin of error. Back in 1999 it was 51%-39%, in 2000 it was a plurality of 48%-42%, and in 2002 it was 50%-38%.

At this point it's worth asking: Why is it seen as so controversial and politically risky to favor ending the embargo, or even making lesser moves towards rolling back sanctions against Cuba, when those views in fact have such consistent popular support?

And here is where we meet the political reality. The folks who really care about keeping the embargo are largely concentrated in Florida, a perennially super-close swing state with 27 electoral votes.

In a widely-expected development, two Minnesota Supreme Court justices are officially recusing themselves from Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat in the election trial.

Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Associate Justice Barry Anderson, who were both appointed by GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, did not participate in a routine order to admit two of Al Franken's attorneys to practice before the court in this matter. It was expected that Magnuson and Anderson would recuse themselves, as they were members of the state canvassing board in the recount, and they'd previously recused themselves from other litigation in this election.

It's worth noting that two other justices who have received some media scrutiny did not recuse themselves from this order: Associate Justice Christopher Dietzen, who donated to Norm Coleman's campaign in the years before he was appointed to the bench by Pawlenty, and Associate Justice Helen Meyer, who had donated to Paul Wellstone before she was appointed by Independence Party Gov. Jesse Ventura.

A new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D), already looking forward to 2012, shows President Obama ahead of four potential Republican opponents.

Obama leads Newt Gingrich 52%-39%; he's ahead of Mike Huckabee 49%-42%; he beats Sarah Palin 53%-41%; and he leads Mitt Romney 50%-39%.

"Barack Obama might not have the same overwhelming approval rating he did in the earlier days of his administration," PPP president Dean Debnam said in the polling memo. "But he's certainly still more popular than any of the major Republican figures in the country."

The labor-backed group Americans United For Change is continuing its public campaign against Congressional Republicans and in favor of the Democrats, with this new ad attacking them for saying "No" to progress during a time of crisis:



"Just days into the new session of Congress, Democrats expanded health insurance for children -- the Republicans said 'No,'" the announcer says, repeating the same point about equal pay for women, the Obama budget and long-term prosperity.

The ad will run on national cable for a week.

A major alliance of progressive interest groups--including labor, environmental, and veterans organizations--has launched a new campaign to advance President Obama's energy agenda.

The groups include the Service Employees International Union, the League of Conservation Voters, MoveOn.org Political Action, VoteVets, Center for American Progress Action Fund, and others. Their efforts include both targeted, local advertising and a national ad campaign, and come just as the House begins deliberations on a major climate change bill written by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA)

Ads below the fold.

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With Congress back in session, and major liberal interest groups throwing throwing their weight behind her, is the conservative campaign to defeat Dawn Johnsen ramping up?

Some signs certainly point in that direction.

Yesterday, The Washington Times--one of the country's leading conservative newspapers--published an op-ed calling her a "radical" and urging Republicans (and, comically, Democrats) to filibuster the President's choice to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.

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Poll: Americans' Optimism On The Rise A new AP/GfK poll finds that a 48% plurality of Americans now believe the country is on the right track, compared to 44% who say it is on the wrong track. This is the first time since January 2004, shortly after the capture of Saddam Hussein, that the right-track number edged out the wrong-track figure.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be speaking at 11 a.m. ET, at the Holocaust Days of Remembrance ceremony at the Capitol. At 1:05 p.m. ET, he will meet with representatives of the credit card industry in the Roosevelt Room. At 2:15 p.m. ET, he and Vice President Biden will meet in the Cabinet Room with the Congressional leadership of both parties. At 3:30 p.m. ET, he will receive the University of Florida football team in the East Room. At 4 p.m. ET, he will meet with Hillary Clinton. At 7:30 p.m. ET, he and the First Lady will host a reception for Congressional members and their spouses, in the Blue Room.

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Oh the (rare, but occasionally exceptional) joys of Twitter. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)--the ranking member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee--says (tweets?) "I seemed [sic] to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question - Where does oil come from?"

He's referring to Nobel prize winning Energy Secretary Steve Chu, and this exchange.

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